Sunday, September 29, 2013

Points of Light

Regardless of my mood, I always know that I have a lot of good things in my life. Chief among these good things are always my…cat and stuffed mouse.

IMG_2043
I kid. The things that always make me happier than anything are my munchkins. They are sources of a lot of frustration and annoyance and anger, but oh my God, they are awesome.

They are sweet and funny and creative and they make me want to be a happy person for them. They’re pretty cool.

They make me laugh…

IMG_2031
Sure, Jack could just skate around like all the other kids, but where would be the fun in that?
My kids are unequivocally their own unique individuals. I love that about them. And I love that they are learning to love that about themselves.

They make me proud…

IMG_2001
The other day, Quinn didn’t want to do his math and didn’t want me to help him. Without being asked, Sam came over and patiently explained the methodology to him. Quinn picked up his pencil and immediately started working.
I always said that my goal with my kids was to make them a team. I didn’t care if they stood united even against me—as long as they stood united. They’re getting there. On both counts. And I love them for it.

They make me full of love…

IMG_1962
Displays of their open willingness to love happen all the time. Sometimes that love is overwhelming. Especially if you’re a kitten. (Although that kitten is less trapped than she looks.)
No matter how old they get, how grown up they seem, they are still gentle souls who can be turned into goo by a kitten. That turns me to goo too. My kids hold a tremendous amount of love in their hearts. I adore that about them.

They’re good kids. They make me happy even when I’m not happy, if that makes sense. I’m very lucky to have them.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Deep Melancholy

I am entrenched in some deep melancholy these days. There are any number of reasons for this: post-adventure ennui, my elderly cat who is slowly getting sicker and sicker, the fact that for the first time in a long time, I don’t have anything professional going on and it is leaving me a little bit adrift in wondering how to deal with my life.

All of this results in writer’s block, me not cleaning my house, and a life dressed entirely in clothes that don’t feature zippers or buttons—none of which makes anything better.

Except for the sweatpants. That makes a lot of things better.

This is all to tell you why there are longer and longer spaces between posts here. I hate that because writing here and getting your feedback brings me a lot of joy. But it feels bad to put up posts that I don’t feel, you know? Regardless, I’ll be back. And I’m okay. Bummer though it might be, I have years of experience dealing with this kind of mood and I know I’ll come out the other side.

Plus, I have ALL OF THE KITTENS to cheer me up.

I hope you all are doing well. Fist bumps and cheery smiles to all of you.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Reach the Beach 2013 Race Report: Victory in New Hampshire!

Cannon Mountain, location of the start line at Reach the Beach New Hampshire:

IMG_1816
Driving in, I had a very visceral reaction. To wit: “Oh fuck, it’s real.”
Some background:

Just about 52 weeks ago, I ran an 8K race near my home. I ran those five miles at a slightly more than 14-1/2 minute per mile pace. I placed 621 out of 627 finishers.

Last weekend at Reach the Beach, I ran three runs totaling 16.87 miles over 33 hours. I ran them, according to my GPS, in three hours, 13 minutes, and three seconds at a less than 11-1/2 minute per mile average pace.

To many (most?) runners, I am still veeeery slow. I still don’t look like a runner. I am definitely still a beginner. I am still waaaaay in progress on my Project Stimey Betterment of Jean mission. But you know what? I can run 17 miles in two days. My longest run increased to 11.15 miles—which I ran in August at a faster pace than I ran that 8k race, by the way. I’ve run nearly 400 miles thus far this year. I have cut three minutes off of my running pace in the past 52 weeks.

Progress, meet Stimey.

I am extremely proud of myself.

All right. Excellent. *brushes hands together* Let’s move on to the race report.

As I told you in my last post, Reach the Beach is a 200(ish)-mile race broken into 36 legs. Standard teams rotate their runners sequentially through each leg. We were a freestyle team, which means that our captains were able to assign legs at will. We had two vans that took turns running and supporting the runners. That means Van One ran/supported on legs 1-6, 13-18, and 25-30. Van Two ran/supported legs 7-12, 19-24, and 31-36. I was in Van Two and ran legs 8, 24, and 35.

If you’re having a hard time picturing it, you can look at photos and videos on the race Facebook page or read this post about the logistics of it all. Or you can stick around here as I tell you how it was for me and also a little bit how it was for my team. I feel a little egocentric writing solely about my perspective as this was most definitely a team effort and undoubtedly every other member of the team had a vastly different experience, but I don’t know how else to be able to do it. Maybe as you’re reading, you could add “which was possible only because of my amazing team” after every sentence.
I flew into Connecticut on Thursday, the day before the race, where I met up with my team co-captain Marc and my Van Two compatriots Lyda, Bob, Marisa, and Mike. Mike was there as our driver and as a pinch hit runner. Remember that. It is important later.

After that, we headed off to meet Van One—none of whom I’d ever met before—at a restaurant, where everyone talked about how many marathons and half marathons they’d run and I sat quietly and hydrated.

I didn’t actually get to interact very much with Van One, which is a shame because they seem like very cool people. I also didn’t ask their permission to post their names or photos, so just imagine six very nice, fit people who killed their legs of the course. They were all really fast runners and they had to run a LOT of tough hills. Also, I didn’t see them very often. You should internalize, however, that Van One kicked ass.

Reach the Beach staggers their start times over the course of the first day (Friday) so that all 480 teams don’t set off in their 1000 vans at the same time. We were a slower (the slowest?) team, so we had the first start time at 7:20 am.

This is definitely in the top…one of most gorgeous start lines that I’ve experienced.

IMG_1820
Teammates Lyda and Bob in our unobtrusive team shirts.
It started raining right as our first runner set off, which  was a bummer for him, but not that much of a problem for Van Two, as the weather forecast claimed that it would clear up by the time we started running in the early afternoon. Our general assholishness and joy over this would come back to haunt us later that afternoon when we all had to run in pouring rain.

Karma is real, people.

IMG_1824
This snap bracelet was the baton that we passed from wrist to wrist for more than 200 miles. I bet it has a lot of sweat residue on it now.
Anywho, Van One set off running and Van Two? Well, we headed off to breakfast. Over eggs, homefries, pancakes, and coffee, Bob looked up and said, “So far I don’t see what’s so hard about this race.”

He was totally right.

We drove the race route on our way to the first Vehicle Transition Area (VTA), which was really exciting. Passing all the runners was totally inspiring. Passing our runner was way cool. She was in third place at the time.

Spoiler alert: We didn’t stay in third place.

We arrived at the VTA early, which gave us plenty of time to circle and fret, circle and fret. Which we did. Also, it started to rain, goddammit.

IMG_6377
Team MLC, Van Two at the first VTA: Bob, Lyda, Mike, Marisa, Stimey, Marc. We’re awesome.
We got into our groove as Lyda set off on her leg and we figured out how to be a support vehicle. All too soon, however, we had supported her and arrived at the next transition area (TA), where I was due to run my 6.61 miles of Leg 8.

Although not as nervous as I’d been in the days leading up to the race, I still had a fair amount of pre-run anxiety. I was hopeful that it would dissipate as I started running—and it did.

My GPS watch doesn’t tell me my current pace (just average pace), but after I’d been running for a half hour or so, I did some math in my head and figured out that I was running faster than my expected pace of 12 minute miles, which was a huge relief as the possibility of running a 13-minute mile is what had been giving me nightmares for weeks.

My team stopped to give me some water at mile four. It is hard to run and drink water at the same time, so I spilled it all over myself, but it totally didn’t matter because I was entirely soaked by the rain. Did I mention that? It poured during my whole run. At least there was no chance of overheating.

IMG_6400
Mile Four: It’s too bad I was so fucking miserable while I was running, isn’t it?
The rest of the run went really well too. Instead of letting my mind wander, which is something I do on training runs, which tends to result in my slowing down without meaning to, I made sure to keep my speed up and to hit every downhill slope hard. (Gravity, bitches!)

Running into the transition area was one of the greatest things ever.

“You took six minutes off your time!” Marc shouted. Then I never stopped smiling ever.

Bob took off on his run and we returned to the van, where I claimed the back seat so I could change out of my wet clothes. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to navigate a soaking wet sports bra and assorted other clothing while trying to not flash the entire world from the back of a van, but it was harder than it looked.

The rest of the team was, you know, doing stuff in the rest of the van—reading handbooks, studying elevation maps, eating M&Ms and whatnot, whilst I was fighting an epic battle with my clothes.
“Getting dressed is harder than running,” I proclaimed, which, I believe, is evidence of the endorphins coursing through my system after my successful run.

I was so high that I have little recollection of Bob’s run, which was next. I do, however, remember Marisa’s run after his because it was kind of a bummer of a run, by which I mean it was way hillier than expected and still pouring rain. We passed her at some point and then every turn we took, it just got worse and worse and worse and more and more and more uphill except for that steep downhill on gravel, culminating in a steep uphill finish on soaking wet grass.

I stood at the top of that grassy hill for a good amount of time watching runners come into the TA. There were a lot of very fit but very sad people who staggered up that hill, most of them looking completely dazed. Marc, who had assigned all of our van’s legs, looked a little bit like he wanted to throw up, but I’m not sure if it is because he’d given Marisa the uphill route (that, to add insult to injury, he got to partially retrace in the opposite, downhill direction) or because he had two back-to-back legs coming up to finish our first section of the race, for a total of nearly nine miles.

I met him at the TA with some water. Most of our team didn’t make it to cheer him in because he ran so damn fast that he got there way faster than expected, while they were still examining the scenery. I gave him some water, gaped at his 7:10 min/mi pace, and sent him on his way for his second leg.

IMG_6433
Related: Do you see the beauty that we got to run through?
He was substantially less chipper at the next TA where he arrived after leg cramps with a hearty, “That sucked!” but still a 7:50ish pace for his second leg. Then he wandered around mumbling for a while. I don’t think you get leg cramps if you run anything slower than 11 minutes a mile. Yay, me!

Fortunately, we didn’t have anywhere to be because Van One was up for the next six legs. It was nearing dinner time so we decided to find pizza in the town where we would be taking over in the middle of the night. This meant that we got to preview the race course before Van One ran it. We decided to not let them know how terrible and hilly their night runs would be. It seemed cruel to tell them. Sometimes ignorance is bliss—although there was nothing blissful about the legs they had to run. In the dark. With, in at least one case, a defective headlamp. In the pitch black. Did I mention that it was dark?

We stopped for gas and my teammates asked the teenage kids (i.e. hoodlums) hanging outside where to get the best pizza in town. Then we passed probably 60 or 70 pizza places as we drove in circles to find said pizza place because teenagers told us it was “the bomb.”

I may or may not have been in the navigator’s chair with my Yelp app shouting about, “No! We are going to get the bomb pizza. I do not care that there are three pizza joints in that strip mall to our left. I DO NOT CARE!” Fortunately a majority of Van Two was similarly delirious and opinionated.

IMG_1864
It was pretty goddamn good pizza. Mayhap the bomb.
As I was taking the above photo with my actual slice of pizza, which I then proceeded to eat, Marc was all, “Last time I saw that mouse, he was sitting on a lily pad in the middle of a lake.” And I was all, “Yum. Giardia.”

From there, we went to the VTA where we hoped to get some sleep. Here is something you should know about me: I can find a way to sleep almost anywhere. Sometimes I can’t help sleeping in odd places. The other day when I was in the OT waiting room, it was less awesome that I fell asleep, but at Reach the Beach, my sleeping skillz came in super handy.

We parked our van near a bunch of people sacked out in the grass in sleeping bags and I pulled out my bag only to hear that everyone else was planning to get some sleep in the van. Seats were being reclined, benches were being called, and I couldn’t think of anything more terrible than trying to sleep in a van full of people. Putting a sleeping bag on the wet grass seemed luxurious by comparison.

I chose a spot under a tree, imagining that it would probably be drier there. Then I passed out and slept for the next two hours. After Marc woke me up (in what was apparently a nervewracking episode of trying to figure out which identical sleeping bag contained me—fortunately he chose wisely), I learned that the van denizens had averaged about 20 minutes of sleep.

I knew that all those naps I took over the summer were preparing me for something. I’m not LAZY. I was TRAINING.

Regardless, soon enough we were up and waiting for an exhausted Van One to come in and pass the baton to us. Lyda was up first at around midnight, which meant that we got to experiment with middle of the night support on her. Also, we were all kind of waiting to see if she was going to get eaten by a bear.

Another spoiler alert: She did not.

Running at night was a trip. Our driver/teammate extraordinaire, Mike, super stepped up on this rotation. He not only drove our enormous van nearly the entire course (33 hours!) while not running over any runners, but he also turned into our main support guy, jumping out of the van to supply water and encouragement as we ran by. Mike rocks. Like, really, really rocks.

The fact that Mike took over the major support role was probably for the best, as I tried to support Marc on his leg, resulting in my team thinking that I’d gotten lost in the night (I’d wandered over to the other side of the road) AND giving a generic, “Nice job!” to Marc when he ran by because I didn’t realize it was him in the dark.

I eventually figured out my mistake and caught up to him with his water.

I ran the last leg in this rotation, so I am the only member of Team MLC who didn’t actually run in the dark. I had been kind of looking forward to a night run, but I got the sunrise run, so I’m not going to complain. I also didn’t get any of the super hard runs that the rest of the team ran overnight, so I’m really not going to complain. Three of Van Two’s runners ran super hilly legs and one ran a double leg, which totaled nearly ten miles.

My 6.9 miles didn’t seem so bad after that.

Also, not to toot my own horn or anything, but after being passed by every runner on the course, I finally passed someone on this leg. I found out later that it was the oldest runner in the race—an 80-year-old man who was on his 9th year of the race. I want to be him when I grow up.

This leg was a little slower for me, but I still took a couple minutes off of my expected running time. Shortly before the end of my leg, there was a short (about a half mile) but steep uphill. I was a little surprised when I got to the top and there were no cheers for me, but there was no one around, so I guess I can’t feel too bad. There were cheers in my head though and I very nearly high fived myself for not slowing to a walk at all.

I live for downhills (again: gravity, bitch!) and the rest of the leg was downhill, so I took off, feeling great. I even had a passing van shout at me, “Way to finish strong, runner!” at which point I looked up to smile at them and nearly fell off the road. Happily I did not.

Van One was taking over at this point, so as I ran in to the cheers of the large crowd that was gathered at the VTA, I was looking for my replacement runner from the other van. I saw him and then tried to operate the snap bracelet while moving, promptly hurling it to the ground at his feet.

I am a fucking dunce.

IMG_6482
I totally look like a pro here, don’t I?
IMG_6483
I look like less of a pro here, running past my teammate who had to start his leg by fumbling on the ground. I particularly like background guy watching him do it.
We had time before starting our final rotation so we took the People Who Need Coffee (why doesn’t everyone just take their caffeine in an icy, portable, Diet Coke manner like I do?) to a Dunkin’ Donuts, which was awesome for me because there was an actual bathroom there where I could change my clothes instead of struggling in the back of the van.

From there, we headed to our next vehicle transition area, which was a happy place where you could buy a shower for $5 or sleep on a mat in a school gym for free. I opted for the latter, scoring another hour and a half of sleep.

Before sleep, however, I used the porta potty. Then I walked out of said porta potty, dropped off a curb, and fell straight to the ground. That’s right. I fell pretty much flat on my face by rolling out of a porta potty. I imagine that it was kind of spectacular to watch.

I am ridiculous.

I actually sustained more of an injury in my, you know, fall out of the porta potty than I did in any other part of the race. I scraped up my whole left shin and tore open small wounds on a couple of toes and my ankle.

Repeat: I am ridiculous.

We only had six legs left to run and this was by far the easiest rotation, with each leg measuring only 4 or fewer miles—except Leg 32: my leg. This leg is 6.7 miles. I had this leg because my other legs, while good distances, were easier than everyone else’s legs. (Anyone have a synonym for “leg?”) I wasn’t assigned any of the long climbs or lengthy slogs, so I was prepared to put in my time with a long last leg. Marc also had a long last leg, but just because he was planning to run both legs 35 and 36.

Mike, being the wonderful guy he is (remind me to tell you about the incredible parking job he did with the van at the last VTA sometime), offered to take leg 35 from Marc. Marc suggested that he take my leg and I take 35, which Mike was totally up for.

I was conflicted.

Part of me wanted to do my three 7-mile runs. I had prepared for them, I had psyched myself up for them, I was ready for them. But a bigger part of me liked the idea of running 3.4 miles instead of 6.7. When I woke up from my nap and fighting my way out of the sleeping bag took longer than a minute, I decided to gratefully take Mike up on his offer.

It was an exceptionally good decision. I probably could have done the 6.7, but it wouldn’t have been pretty. Even the 3.4 wiped me out. Mike took leg 32 and killed it. He pinch hit at exactly the time we needed him to. I don’t think it would be out of line to call him a godsdamned hero.

It was really fun to celebrate with each of my teammates as they came into the TAs, having completed all of their legs. These are some incredibly tough people, all of whom rocked every single one of their legs. It was an honor to run with them.

My last leg felt slow, but it turns out that I was running it at the same average pace that I ran my first leg. I even passed two non-octogenarians.  It felt great to run into the transition area on that last leg.

IMG_6574

Marc ran the last leg because he is the dude who came up with the idea to run Reach the Beach in the first place and it seemed only fair that he get to be the guy to complete it. Unfortunately, he is a speedy runner and the rest of us had only his four miles to speed to the beach to get there before he did.

We had to park in the overflow lot, which was, oh, let’s say 16 miles from the finish line. Or a little less than a mile. One or the other.
We speedwalked down the boardwalk to the beach and then churned through the sand along the race route where we found our Van One teammates just in front of the finish line. Not two minutes later, Marc came running down the beach and all 12 of us ran across the finish line together. It was amazing.
I am so proud of all of us.

IMG_6585
We are awesome. All of us.
Ah, fuck it, I have to show Van One too.

IMG_6581
Team MLC, with our captains in front.
Based on Race Stimey’s experience at Reach the Beach, Future Stimey is really going to enjoy whatever team-centered footrace I sign her up for next. We’re already contemplating other relays.
I feel really happy that not only did I complete my portion of this race and that my team finished the race as a group, but I made some new friends. I completely fell in love with my teammates last weekend. I would go on pretty much any adventure with them at any point in the future.
Thank you, Team MLC, for being the amazing, strong, funny, kind people that you are.
As for Idea-man Marc? I may have jokingly said some unkind things to him over the past several weeks as my panic reached epic proportions, but the thing I really want to say to him is, thank you. I would never have done this without you, Marc. Thank you.
When I was worried about my hip injury and afraid that taking time off to let it rest would let down our team, you didn’t let me quit. Thank you.
When I panicked in front of you in the days leading up to the race, you stayed calm and encouraging. Thank you.
When I surpassed my own expectations, you were the first to cheer me on. Thank you.

IMG_6583

 No, really. Thank you.

Monday, September 16, 2013

This Is a Bad Cat


IMG_1922

A little while later, I found her sitting on top of the cage gazing down at them. This could be a problem.

*****

Up next: The Reach the Beach Race Report!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

33:36:26

There is no way on the face of this planet that I could do justice to Reach the Beach right now. You will get a full race report soon, but I will tell you several things right now:

1. We finished. Team MLC (Team Mid-life Crisis—but I really enjoyed all of your guesses!) was amazing. All 12 members of this team completely crushed the course. It was fabulous.

2. Every single one of my teammates is a remarkable person.

3. The race was really, really fun.

4. I am in the process of screwing Future Stimey right now by conspiring with my teammates to think of other relays Team MLC could do.

5. Our official time was 33:36:26, with an average pace of 9:49 minutes per mile.

6. My pace, while slower than the above number, was faster than I had planned. I couldn’t be happier.

7. This is Algernon and me reaching the beach:

IMG_1893

8. Thank you to each and every one of you. You gave me strength and speed and love and it mattered so much. Thank you.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

#racemadness

*INSERT WAR CRY HERE*
You guys are my favorite.
I am ready.
Thank you to each and every one of you for your pep talks and your love and for getting it. You helped me walk through the worst of my pre-race anxiety. Yes, I still have anxiety, but c’mon, I’m racing Reach the Beach. I think it is warranted.
I am ready now.
I am in my right headspace.
I am in this motherfucker.
Next time you see me, I’ll be reaching the beach.
My team is going to rock this relay.


Team_MLC


I would like you to entertain me on my Thursday travel day by giving me your guesses as to what our team name stands for. I didn’t name the team, so you can’t make an assumption that it is Team Motherfucking Long-ass Course. Someone with some decorum named the team. That doesn’t mean you have to have decorum though. Give me your best guess.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Reach the Beach and Why I Hate Past Stimey

About a year ago, Past Stimey’s friend asked her if she wanted to run a 200-mile, 12-person relay race in New Hampshire in September of 2013. Past Stimey thought that sounded like a blast and after all, Past Stimey didn’t really have to worry about actually racing in said relay race (Reach the Beach) because that was Future Stimey’s problem.

Past Stimey can go fuck herself. This comes straight from Present Stimey, who has to run this motherfucking race THIS COMING FRIDAY AND SATURDAY.

Here is how the race works: It is 200(ish) miles. There are a bunch of us on our team. There are 36 legs of varying lengths and intensities. Each of us runs 3 or 4 legs. I will, over the course of 30-something hours, run three legs of almost 7 miles each.

I am freaking out.

I am in an all-day, every-day, full-body panic.

I mean, I’m going for one last run Wednesday, before I fly up to New Hampshire on Thursday, so there is still time for me to sprain an ankle or get hit by a car or something.

As George Costanza said, wishing his fiancĂ©e would get in a plane crash before he had to marry her: “It’s something. It’s hope.”

At least I have a buddy.

photo-3
He’s wearing a reflective vest so he can help out on the night legs.
You guys. I for reals want to cry or throw up every time I think about it. I know neither of those things are all that much out of character, but it’s still kind of a bummer.

Here’s the thing: I can run the miles. I know I can do that. As far as putting one foot in front of the other, that will happen.

However, there are a number of other things that Past Stimey didn’t consider when she so flippantly agreed to take part in this race. I could list all of these things, but it mostly just comes down to my issues with socializing, with needing downtime, with worrying about letting my teammates down because I am so goddamn slooooow, about being autistic in a little van with a slew of other people and a plethora of what are sure to be interesting smells, about body image issues in a field of fit runners, about (my) control issues, about not knowing what to expect, about…

Well. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

I would probably be less stressed if I were supposed to run a marathon this weekend (something I am nowhere near ready to do), because at least if I were doing that, I wouldn’t have eleven other people counting on me. I am not, how you say—a team player. In fact, I have spent most of my life avoiding team situations. I’m really mad that Past Stimey forgot that about us.

Here’s something else though: I know this is going to be good. It is going to be so fucking good. My teammates are good people. My team doesn’t care when we finish, we just care that we finish. I have been mentally preparing myself to put my head down and push through the lack of down time and my social issues, knowing that I can come home and decompress.

I know that this race and the people I do it with are going to be one of my favorite memories. I know that I will come home on Sunday wanting to race again next year. I know all of these things, but that doesn’t stop my anticipatory anxiety.

I have to walk through this anxiety to get to the good part.

Near Future Stimey is going to be really happy. Near Future Stimey is going to have an adventure and a ton of fun this weekend. Near Future Stimey is going to have a million stories.

Present Stimey, however, is going to panic. That’s just the way it is. I know it is going to be great. I really do. Still, if I make it to the start line without puking, it will be a minor miracle.

Humor me, tell me I’m going to be awesome, share a great running song, and make me laugh with a suggestion for a race hashtag? Wish me luck, okay?

photo-2

Keep track of my teammates and me on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Lake Madness

I know that this, the last installment in Team Stimey’s whirlwind trip around all of Wisconsin, is super late and that seven million things have happened between our last installment and now, but I am a completist (it is too a thing), so I now present to you our last vacation destination from our summer vacation waaaaay back in mid-August.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Lake Van Vliet.

1
It’s even prettier in person.
After the chaos of the Wisconsin Dells, it was really nice to go to the peace and absolute quiet of Alex’s family cabin on this gorgeous lake. It is this amazingly quiet place where the big activity is driving into town to get ice cream or to go fishing in the lake or—and this is sort of the climax of our trip every time we come here—rowing to a little island in the next lake over to have a picnic.

We had this great little walk on our first morning there on which I took what is probably my favorite photo in the history of photos. Now, I know I say that a lot, but seriously, people, this photo cracks me up every time I look at it.

Confused kids are confused.

IMG_1325
I am not sure if they are all confused by different things or the same thing in different directions, but I think we can all agree that Team Stimey Junior is confused.
To give you an idea of the kind of things we did at the lake, there was that afternoon we spent stalking a blue heron from a rowboat.

Actual quote from Alex as we tried to row close to said blue heron: “Will everybody SHUT UP? We are trying to sneak up on a bird.”

blue-heron
You’ll notice that we weren’t super successful in sneaking up close to the bird. My kids are loud, y’all.
Things got louder still after Quinn started asking if he could jump out of the boat. This was our third time visiting this cabin with our kids and none of us has put more than a foot or a hand in this lake, mostly because it is FREEZING COLD.

I don’t think we completely believed that he would actually jump out of the boat when we gave him permission.

IMG_1447
How could we have been so naive?
For the record, the water really was frigid. We asked Quinn if he was cold and through shaking lips and chattering teeth, he was all, “n-n-n-ooo.” He was so delighted that he was doing something that his brothers never had.

IMG_1460
The little dude actually swam quite a ways. He laughed the entire damn time.
IMG_1472
He even swam through seaweed (lakeweed?) under the surface of the lake and lily pads on top. This surprised me. Lake swimming trumps sensory nightmare.
IMG_14821
Quinn got to the dock ahead of us. He spent the rest of our vacation reliving his victory in said “race” to the dock.
Alex, being Alex, then told Quinn that he hoped that Quinn hadn’t contracted Lake Madness, to which Quinn replied, “You’re kidding, right?” Alex, again, being Alex, then said, “That is exactly what someone with Lake Madness would say.”

I don’t know that I have ever seen Quinn speechless before, but that did it.

We did let Quinn know that Lake Madness was made up, but that didn’t stop us from repeatedly bringing it up for the rest of our vacation. We are not nice people.

In fact, if you know Quinn in real life and you’re hanging out with him and he does something weird, it would be awesome if you were to say, “Quinn. Have you been swimming in a lake lately? Because what you just did is exactly what my cousin did when he had Lake Madness.”

His head would quite likely explode right off of his head.

You should know though, that if you do that, you will also be a Not Nice Person and will probably also (1) go to hell and (2) contribute to Quinn’s nervous breakdown. On second thought, just think about saying that to him, but don’t actually do it.

My other kids got Lake Madness on our last trip out in the rowboat when they followed Quinn’s lead and all jumped in the lake.

IMG_1645
Laaaaake Maaadddneeeessss!
They were all under our oars and hanging on the edge of the rowboat and generally causing a ruckus. It was de-fucking-lightful. I like my kids a lot.

Algernon came close to getting Lake Madness too, but I saved him before he fell in.

IMG_1394
It is remarkable how quickly a small stuffed mouse will sink a lily pad. This shot was harder to get than it looks.
Fortunately, we had access to an Algernon dryer right next to where Alex and I were sleeping.

IMG_1360
I badly want a fireplace next to my bed now. That was the greatest thing ever.
Of course, it was not all rowboats and nature walks. There were also go karts (Quinn was tall enough to drive his own kart here; he is a terrible driver) and mini golf and fishing (have you ever seen live bait dispensed from a vending machine? I have) and all kinds of quirky restaurants, including Paul Bunyan’s, where you don’t even get to order food—they just bring you plates and piles of food for the table and you choose what you want.

IMG_1517
They also had these fabulous ox horns that Jack used to gore Alex.
One of my very favorite things that we did was take the munchkins horseback riding. They’ve been on ponies that go in those sad little circles before, but never on actual horses. I remember riding semi-regularly when I was kid and I LOVED it, so it was cool to see my kiddos do it for the first time.

Quinn was really nervous at first and almost refused to get on his horse. The guides were really nice though and told him they’d just walk his horse in a couple little circles and he could get off if it was too scary. After about three minutes, he was sold.

IMG_1555
This is Quinn on A3, which is a weird name for a horse, but reportedly he was “the best horse” they had.
Jack got to ride the tallest horse in the world. We always joke that Jack is the honey badger (“He’s pretty badass. Jack don’t care. Jack don’t give a shit. He just takes what he wants.”) Well, Jack got his comemuffins* by getting the honey badger horse. His horse kept stopping to munch on trail-side greenery, requiring Jack to guide him back onto the path. He did a pretty good job of it, but that horse worked him. I laughed and laughed and laughed. Comemuffins.*

IMG_1551
Jack on his horse, Kessler. You can’t tell here, but that horse was taller than a fucking tree. HUGE.
Sam’s and his horse rode directly in front of me. Sam’s horse audibly farted for the entire 45-minute ride. It was astounding that one animal could have that much gas inside him.

IMG_1569
Sam on his black and white horse, Oreo. It is quite possible that this horse is the direct reason we have a black and white cat named Oreo.
Quinn rode in the front, right behind the guide and he talked to her for 45 minutes straight. It was hilarious. I meandered along in the back, bothered only by the flatulence of the horse in front of me.

At one point, a deer spooked both Sam and Jack’s horses, causing them to take off running. Both of them managed to pull back on the reins and not get violently thrown to the ground. I was tremendously proud. They were rock stars. All three kiddos did a great job.

Even Algernon did all right.

IMG_1546
He was too small to ride a real horse though so he was stuck with a pony.
I have to say, I think that this section of our vacation might have been my favorite. It was so chill. I got a ton of running in as well, on roads that ran alongside scenes like this:

IMG_1236
The only negative about running past this was worrying that a bear or mountain lion would come lumbering out of it.
All of our vacation was fun, but there is nothing like Lake Van Vliet for some forced relaxation. Team Stimey is really lucky to have the opportunity to vacation here. And I am very lucky to have Team Stimey.

IMG_1333
I’m so lucky to have these three munchkins in my life.
(End vacation.)
* This is how we say “comeuppance” in my family. And, no, it’s not because one of our kids adorably mispronounced the word. Alex mispronounced it until he was midway through law school and I finally corrected him. I decided that it would be against our best interests for him to bust out with, “Then the defendant got his comemuffins…” in front of a judge.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Issy


IMG_4046
I’ve written and deleted so many words about Issy Stapleton and her mother today. I can’t stop thinking about them. What it comes down to is this:

Issy: I am so sorry the person you probably trusted most in the world did this to you.
Parents: I know that they system is broken. I know it is all but impossible to get what you need for your child and your family. But the decision to kill your child because you think she would be better off dead? That is not your decision to make.
I wish I knew how to make this stop. I wish I knew what to say to desperate parents. I wish I had a way to finish the sentence, “If you ever get to the place where you think the answer is to murder your child, you should __________,” but I don’t have one. I wish I could end that sentence with, “call 911 and they will make your child safe until you can be there for her again.”

Unfortunately, there is no fix-all solution when it feels hopeless. There is no answer except to keep putting one foot in front of the other. There is no answer other than trying to reach out to someone—anyone—who can keep your child safe. There is no answer other than remembering how much you love your child and understanding that self-determination is theirs.

There is no way to finish that sentence except to say, “If you ever get to the place where you think the answer is to murder your child, you should stop.

I’m so sorry this happened to you, Issy.

Monday, September 2, 2013

One Cat, Two Cat, Black Cat, Tux Cat

Black cat, tux cat, small cat, new cat.

IMG_1529

This one has a little shoe.

IMG_1477

This one has a little mew.

IMG_1395

Some are near and some are far.
Say! What a lot of cats there are.

IMG_1492

Yes. Some are black and some others are too.
Some are old and some are new.
Some are sad and some are glad.
And some are very, very bad.

IMG_1455

Why are they sad and glad and bad?
I do not know; go ask your dad.

Some have friends.

IMG_1482

Some have games.

IMG_1677

Some have very funny names.

Some hog chairs.

IMG_1520

Some like to stare.

IMG_1615

Some look like they have no eyes there.

IMG_1448

Some are fast and some are slow.
Some are high and some are low.
Not one of them is like another.
Don’t ask us why; go ask your mother.

Some sit on kiddo tums.

IMG_1663

Others make pillows out of other’s bums.

IMG_1539

Some read books.

IMG_1659

Some hide in nooks.

IMG_1489


Some give you cockeyed looks.

IMG_1526

Some cats spend a lot of time trying to doze.

IMG_1467

Some cats have learned to perfect a pose.

IMG_1500

Those cats then shove their face into someone’s nose.

IMG_1501

Look what we found in the hole in this bowl:

IMG_1510

We will take her home; we will call her Oreo.
She will live at our house; she will grow and grow.
Will our mother like this? We don’t know.

Some cats are glad they get to watch a friend play a game.


IMG_1628

Because others lick their tummy stitches and have to wear a homemade cone of shame.

IMG_1673
Today is gone. Today was fun.
Tomorrow is another one.
Every day, from here to there,
Funny things are everywhere.